Chinese President Xi Jinping simply can’t get over his obsession with the Alibaba founder Jack Ma. After launching several vindictive actions against the tech giant- Alibaba, the Chinese government has asked the country’s media to censor reporting on the anti-trust probe against Alibaba, as per a latest Financial Times report.
The latest bid to censor reports about Xi’s vindictive anti-trust probe into Alibaba reflects how the Chinese President remains personally insecure with Jack Ma’s rich popularity within the Communist nation. Xi feels that if the billionaire entrepreneur keeps making headlines in China, then Ma might start getting seen as a symbol of resistance against Beijing’s authoritarianism. Xi is worried that Ma supporters could even rebel against the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Financial Times has opined that the latest CCP diktat to media houses on the subject of Jack Ma shows that the issue has become a matter of national political sensitivity in China. Now, why would the political establishment suddenly turn sensitive towards a particular business entity? Xi’s insecurities are clearly dictating his actions here.
Jack Ma is a rockstar in China. The big turnaround in Ma’s personal life from being an underpaid English teacher to becoming a popular billionaire makes the Alibaba founder an inspiration for China’s budding entrepreneurs. His e-commerce business remains impressive, and still more impressive was his ability to keep thriving in a historically Communist nation that still tends to curb enterprise.
Jack Ma also started a talent hunt show for the aspiring entrepreneurs. Also, his philanthropy made Ma popular both within and outside of China. Secretly, Xi Jinping would have always envied Ma, given that the Chinese President is himself an uninspiring and timid figure.
So, when in October last year, the 56-year old billionaire criticised China’s “outdated regulation” and accused the state-owned banks of operating with a “pawnshop” mentality, Xi perceived a direct threat and decided to crack down on Alibaba. Ma himself hasn’t made a public appearance, after making those remarks in October.
Now, Xi’s fears are different. He has successfully cracked down on Alibaba, but he is worried if Ma supporters across China come to understand how the CCP targeted the star billionaire. So, last month, the CCP propaganda arm asked media houses to “strictly invoke” the official line on the anti-monopoly probe into Alibaba and “not make changes or engage in the extended analysis without permission”.
The CCP intends to censor possible editorials and op-eds that discern why the Xi administration made Alibaba’s life difficult. Financial Times quoted a state media employee as saying, “I think Beijing is still afraid of Alibaba to a degree . . . The government thinks it’s being challenged.”
Xi knows that China’s youth and business industry has more affinity for Alibaba and Jack Ma, than what they have for the Communist Party. The CCP itself seems apprehensive about an outburst of public emotions over unfair treatment against Jack Ma. Xi Jinping is preparing for a protracted struggle against Ma’s Alibaba, and he has started by censoring the Chinese media.